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Monthly Archives: September 2010

in my mouth: lettuce pray.

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I’m not sure if we’ve covered this, but I’m sort of a picky eater.  The four things I once refused to eat were mayonnaise, lettuce, eggs and onions.  In that order.  So far, I’ve warmed up onions and eggs.  I abhor mayo and everything it stands for, but I have always wanted to like lettuce and salads.

I’ve tried several salads over the years.  I’ve even finished a few.  One of my first and favorite salads was at Olive Garden.  With fragrant onion, salty olives and tangy dressing, I was a believer.  I had a great salad at Urban Standard with sweet potatoes, candied pecans and barbecue chicken.  But it’s still really difficult for me to stomach lettuce.

This past Friday, Roomie Reagan told me that she wanted to make dinner for us.  She’d planned on a casserole that her grandmother used to make, and a side salad.  She sweetly purchased some green beans for me, because she knows I don’t really do salad, but she encouraged me to give it a try.

First things first:

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Harpoon Octoberfest and Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale…I had one of each :)

The salad was a combination of spring mix, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, sunflower seeds and cranberries, with a sweet vidalia onion dressing on the side.

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I ambitiously put some on my plate, genuinely interested.

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The casserole was composed of  cream of mushroom soup, sausage and some other things, and topped with (reduced-fat) Ritz Crackers.  And of course, there were green beans.

As we all sat down to dinner I cautiously took a bite.  And chewed.  And chewed some more.  Verdict:  fantastic!  It was so good, much better even than what I thought it would be.  I really think the cranberries had a lot to do with it.  Their sweetness and chewy texture were really interesting, and nice contrast with the dressing.

It was like an incredible milestone had been reached.  Salad!  Who knew?!  (PS  The casserole was also great!)

While we’re talking milestones, I also did something I’ve never done before this past Sunday.

Making gravy.

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Aw, yeah.  It was pretty simple, too:

1/2 lb sausage (I used turkey)

3 cups cold milk (I used fat-free)

4 tbsp flour

2 tbsp butter (only had margarine, and a little butter)

salt, pepper, ground sage

First, but the sausage roll in half (we had a one-pound tube).

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Cook it down and crumble with a spatula.  Once it’s lookin’ and smellin’ good, remove from the heat and set aside in a separate bowl.  Cover it to keep it warm.

At this point, you’re supposed to have about 2 tbsp of pork fat left over to mix with the butter.  Um…not so with turkey sausage.  I ended up using two more tbsp of butter.

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Once that melts, mix in the flour; it’ll make sort of a paste.

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Pour in one cup of milk, and whisk gently over medium-low heat.

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Once that starts to thicken, add a second cup.  Let it thicken, then add the third.

I kept thinking it would be too thin, but lo and behold, it thickened right up!  (That’s what she said.)  Add the sausage back in, then season to taste with salt, pepper and sage.

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In a separate pan, we cooked the remaining sausage (after slicing it up into patties).  The gravy was served over simple drop biscuits made using just Bisquick and milk.

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Just mix, spoon out onto a greased cookie, and bake at about 400 (or whatever it says on the box) for about 8-10 minutes.

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Voila!  Yes, I know it’s technically not homemade biscuits and traditional (read: bacon fat-laden) gravy, but I used what I had, and I think it turned out healthier (and just as tasty).

What did YOU eat this past weekend?  I know it’s close to the middle of the week…any exciting food plans this weekend?

they like me! they really like me!

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Yesterday was our company luncheon at work.  I was a little concerned about what I would eat (I’d honestly forgotten it was that day), but the selection proved to be decent.  The food was from Carraba’s and included pasta with peas and mushrooms (in a light sauce; extra alfredo was on the side), broccoli and side salad.

I surprised even myself by getting a little of the salad.  It was loaded up with fun stuff like kalamata olives, crunchy celery, juicy tomatoes and red onion.  The dressing was a tart house Italian.  The broccoli didn’t taste like it was drowned in butter or oil, so that’s a plus.  I tried to load up with more of that and just a little pasta.

While we were all enjoying our meal, my boss (the company president) began conducting normal business.  Then it was time for the Employee of the Quarter (we no longer do it every month).  My boss began to describe the person deserving of the award, saying that people enjoyed being around them and that they were a good worker. 

“This person is mostly subtle in their smart-ass-ness,” he went on to say.  I kept eating, having no idea who he was talking about.  Then he turned towards me.  “Congratulations, Summer,” he said.  I was in shock! 

I’m super excited to have been awarded with this honor.  It was totally unexpected.  I got a certificate (that I’m sure I’ll be posting on the fridge) and generous gift card.  Jonathan and celebrated by going out for sushi.

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We decided to hit up the Surin in Mountain Brook.  (Please excuse the dirty window.)  I started with a glass of Chateau St. Michelle Riesling.

DSC03873We giggled at this promotion on the table:

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BLT sushi with bacon, lettuce and tuna.  Um, thanks but no thanks.  We started with a cup of their fabulous coconut tofu soup.  It’s spicy with just a tinge of coconut, with tofu chunks and floating mushrooms.

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For our meal, we went with a combo consisting of the Rainbow Roll (eel, avocado and eel sauce) and the California Roll (crab, cucumber and avocado).  I’m not a huge fan of California Rolls, but there were no substitutions on the combos, so we just rolled with it.  (Haha, get it?  ROLLED with it?  Sushi???  No?)  We also got a small order of the Rock and Roll.

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The Rainbow Roll looked something like a great Chinese dragon marching along in a New Year’s parade.  Inside were cucumber, crab and avocado, and it was topped with tuna, salmon and snapper.  That red stuff is tobiko.  I wasn’t really a fan of those :(  Everything else was awesome!

And in other news, Dave has taken to just settling in random areas of my room.

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I’m still so tickled about my work honor.  Have you ever earned an office accolade? 

heavy breathing

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I started my running journey officially in June of 2009. So far, I’ve done two 10ks and seven 5ks. Since I’ve been running, there’s never been a race for me where I just wanted to quit. Like, walk off the race route and hightail it to my car.

That all changed on Saturday.

It was my first 5k of the season, the Head Over Teal 5k in memory of Laura Crandall Brown, supporting ovarian cancer research. When I first signed up, I had visions of trying to beat my fastest (using the term loosely, as you know, I’m slow) 5k time of 35:19. Then I heard someone on DailyMile talk about the area the race was in.

“Ran the Preserve today,” he wrote. “All hills. Exhausting.”

I started to get nervous.

I went online to website to check the race route. Now, I don’t know how to read elevation maps, really, but this made me even more uneasy:

The morning of, I got up early and had what’s become my go-to race morning breakfast.

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English muffin with natural PB and some sunflower seeds. It gives me fuel but doesn’t sit in my stomach like a rock.

Jonathan drove me over to the race site. It was pretty hilly just getting over there. I picked my packet, which I’d forgotten to get on Thursday, and it has some pretty decent swag.

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Including…a mini computer mouse!  And next to it, a men’s cologne sample!

I was pleased to see quite a breakfast spread when I got there: apples, bananas, coffee and bagels from Panera Bread. I’d already eaten, but I did snag one after the race was over.

I tried my best to stretch a little before putting my game face on.

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I find my bra to be the perfect place to store things…like, say, my chapstick.

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The first .75 miles were ok, a slight incline before going steadily down hill. Which was nice…until we had to turn around and go uphill for close to a mile. I halted to a walk. Then I saw someone taking pictures…and another someone that happened to be Jonathan!

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I’m so fast, I’m a blur!

I trucked on past, stopped to walk again, then proceeded to pick up my pace when I saw a much-deserved downhill slope. This section wasn’t so bad; the worst was the heat.

Soon after I hit one of the steepest hills. I had to walk. For a few minutes, I contemplated sitting on the curb. Ugh. But I pressed on. I talked to the guy beside me who said this was his first-ever 5k. I felt bad for him.

I got to the summit and started running again. Then I saw the familiar town hall building that I recognized from the starting point. I was so close! I had no clue what my time was, but I knew it couldn’t be good. Then I saw a crowd of people near the makeshift finish line, along with a digital clock. The time? 34 minutes. This can’t be! I thought. Either way, I sprinted like it was my job.

When I stopped my iPod, my NikePlus informed that I’d gone about 2.9 miles. J and I drove the course later and also came up about the same. I think they ended the race a little shorter than the original map (which actually said 3.24 miles). I figured up my pace and I think I was running just under 12 minute/mile and I would’ve finished 3.1 miles in about 36.5 minutes. Considering I walked so much and it was so hot, this wasn’t too far off my normal pace.

I, however, was absolutely sapped of energy. I lay in the grass for a bit while J fetched me a water. We were just about to head out, when a fella gave me another surprise: food inside for runners.

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I snagged a barbecue sandwich from Jim N’ Nick’s for us to share.  (Also picture are the Panera leftovers.)  After we got home, I took a shower and then a nap.

Getting up was hard…I had a headache and my limbs just felt weak. J had to be at the radio station for work fairly early, so I pulled myself together to have lunch with him at Rojo down the street.

I was hungry but not starving, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I got the mini portion of nachos with chips, cheese, black beans, salsa, and sour cream. It was just the right amount. On the side, I had a fruit cup.

J ordered the migas from the brunch menu, which consisted of scrambled eggs with tomatoes, onions jalapenos and queso cheese and flour tortillas. It came with bacon and hash browns, and he also got a fruit cup. I had bite of the migas; they were really tasty and juicy with a little spice. (Sorry for no pictures L)

About the fruit cup: It was just grapes and melon (honeydew and cantaloupe). I’ve always said that I just don’t like melons; they always have a funny aftertaste and make me feel icky. These were different. It was the sweetest melon I have ever tasted! Delicious. I don’t know if this is just the peak time for them or if I’ve had bad melon all the other times before, but wow.

I vegged out the rest of the afternoon by watching the VMAs before heading to Craig’s for SEC football (more on that later). What did you do this week? How do you feel about hilly runs? My legs are STILL hurting.

wtf: what the friday?! girls gone wild

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So remember a few weeks back, when I told you about the girl who had acid thrown in her face outside a coffee shop? Well, in a strange twist, it turns out it was all a hoax. She did it to herself. Who the heck would DO something like that? I don’t even like washing my face when I have a sunburn. I can’t imagine giving myself an acid facial, even as much as I love being the center of attention. Apparently people became suspicious when she cancelled her appearance on Oprah. Apparently, she wrote a note on her Facebook page saying that she originally wanted to be on the show so she could “tell people about Jesus.” Newsflash: Jesus doesn’t like liars very much. Additionally, another woman who was a real victim of what is being considered a copycat attack, speaks out about the faker, Bethany Storro.

This morning on the Today show I saw this clip about a mother concerned with the lyrics to a cheer that her six-year-old was performing. After she complained to the coach, her daughter was promptly removed from the squad. Apparently the coach also referred to the mother as a “lunatic” when speaking to another news outlet. In the 500th hour of the Today show, Kathie Lee told Hoda Kotb that the coach sounded like Sue Slyvester from Glee. First, I say don’t insult Jane Lynch in such an impertinent manner. Secondly…I don’t know that having Kathie Lee come to your defense really helps the whole, “I’m not a lunatic” thing.

As for the cheer, here is the allegedly risqué chant: “Our backs ache/our skirts are too tight/we shake our booties from left to right.” I don’t necessarily know if this is so much suggestive as it is just…dumb. “Our backs ache/our skirts are too tight”? These kids are practically toddlers, for cryin’ out loud. Whatever happened to two bits, four bits?

While looking for this story to link to, I found other much more alarming stories, like this one about mothers taking their preteen daughters to have their body hair waxed—before puberty has even had the chance to come knocking. “For waxing, 12 years old is the ‘new normal,’ ” says aesthetician Melanie Engle. One mom even requested that a stylist wax her daughter’s back hair; the little girl was just six years old. My mom waited forever to even let me shave my legs! And now, I wish she never would have.

And now, for something that makes me happy: The very first plus-size-only runway show at New York Fashion Week. It’s so nice and refreshing to see bigger girls making a big splash. Check out some of the looks featured on the runway over at InStyle. In attendance were Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray), KayCee Stroh (High School Musical), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and one of my personal favorites, Emme.

It’s interesting to look through these photos and see what qualifies as “plus-size.” Many people (me included) might glance and say, “Why, these women are perfectly normal-sized!” And they are—when it comes to everyday women. But as one of my idols (and major girl crush) Crystal Renn stated, in the fashion world, plus-size just means “plus the norm.” So if the typical model is a size 2—then yeah, even a size 10 is considered “plus-size.” Excellent perspective.

How’s your Friday so far?

it tastes the same…if you close your eyes…

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The other day at Publix, I bought a bag of lentils.  I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I hit the Internet for some recipe ideas and to do a little background check on my new friend(s).

A few lentil notes:

  • They get 25% of their calories from protein, and they are a great source of iron—perfect for a vegetarian diet
  • Legumes have the third highest protein count (by weight) of plant-based foods, behind soybeans and hemp
  • Lentils come in a variety of colors, the most common are brown and green
  • They have been said to lower cholesterol and are rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins
  • At 230 calories for a whole cup, lentils keep you full and satisfied without taking in a lot of calories

Lentils have what can be described as a meaty texture.  They’re used in all sorts of dishes instead of meat and are especially plentiful in Indian food.  Check out Meghann’s Lentil Shephard’s Pie and Emily’s Indian Lentils with Spinach and Eggplant.

After a little poking around, I decided on Vegetarian Sloppy Joes.  There are plenty of recipes on the Internet, but I structured mine around one I found on VeganDad’s blog.  I made a few changes, by using brown lentils instead of red.  I used about 3.5 servings of lentils (dry), and I cut everything in the original recipe in half since I was only making about 4 servings.  I also cooked my lentils first, then mixed them in with my sauce and let that sit on the stove for a while.

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I decided to pull double duty by steaming my broccoli on top of the lentils.

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I love ketchup…and it isn’t often that I get to pour it into recipes by the (half) cup full.  The brand I use (Hunt’s) has no HFCS added, and I can get behind that.

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We had these on sandwich thins served alongside steamed broccoli and homemade potato chips.  They were so good!  I never really ate Sloppy Joes as a kid, but I thought these would give them a run for their money.  True to name they were quite messy, but it was totally worth it.

And as for the potato chips…if you don’t have a mandolin, you need to get one.  Jonathan gave me mine for Christmas last year, and I absolutely love it.  The brand is OXO I believe, and you can find them at most retail stores.  I used it to slice up a few Yukon gold potatoes, then I spread them out on a baking sheet with a little S&P and baked them at around 400 degrees till they were crispy and brown.

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Check. That. Out.  You read a newspaper through those slices.

One helpful hint:  Be sure to watch these.

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I could have been sneaky and just showed you the pretty ones…but I believe in showing the good, the bad, and the burned.  And there you have it.

Do you have meatless meals often?  What’s your favorite creative swap?  Do you have any fun lentil recipes to share?  I really want to try Jenna’s Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf.

going rogue

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Earlier this week, Craig called up asked if I’d be interested in going to have lunch somewhere downtown, near my office.  After a quick moment of deliberating between having leftovers or something new and fun, I answered with a resounding yes.

We decided to hit up Rogue Tavern on 2nd Ave N.  This place has sort of pub feel to it, with exposed brick and strategic lighting.  There are plenty of tables to sit down at and have a bite, even a little area with couches and chairs for drinking and socializing.  Out back, there’s a lovely patio area with seating as well.  In one corner, there’s a large stage for various bands and open mic nights.

We’d been here several times before, but only in a bar-type setting.  A group of us actually celebrated New Year’s Eve here—it was so much fun!  Not too crowded, but awesome 80s music and plenty of confetti and pizzazz.

I take it back:  Jonathan and I dinner there once.  It was pretty good.  I had the Muffaletta, but I can’t really give a satisfactory review since I’m a Central Grocery muff kinda girl.

Anyway, for lunch.  We walked right in; there were people in the place, but it wasn’t crowded.  After taking some time to glance over the menu, I settled on the Portobella Burger:  “a marinated and grilled portabella mushroom with roasted tomato and provolone.”  I requested grilled veggies instead of the chips.  Craig had been craving a salad, so he chose the Greek salad with grilled chicken.

There was a brief moment of confusion when our server asked me how I “wanted it cooked.”  I looked at her.  “My…mushroom?” I asked.  “Uh…well done?”  I didn’t know if there was some cool lingo I wasn’t hip to.  She later approached me on my way to the ladies’ room (where she gently brushed the hair off my shoulder…?) and asked, “Now, you know there’s no meat on that, right?”  Strange.

Our food was out within a reasonable amount of time.  I ended up getting the chips in addition to the veggies, which I shared with Craig.


The aforementioned grilled vegetables consisted of squash, peppers, onions, carrots and celery (??).


They were good, but doused in oil. I had some of the chips, too, and they were better.  Instead of being greasy and salty, they were perfectly crisp without tasting like they took an hour-long dip in the Fry Daddy.

My sandwich was also good, but lacking something.  I ended up removing the top bun and having it open-faced.  I think goat cheese would have lent more flavor overall, or maybe some pesto?  The mushroom tasted like it was marinated in balsamic vinegar, but it wasn’t too strong.  The sandwich could have been made better with the use of more grilled veggies.

Craig really enjoyed his salad (he cleaned his plate!), and for me being someone who doesn’t eat salad often, I thought it looked like it’d be worth a shot.

There were plenty of olives and huge chunks of feta to go around.

I’ll definitely continue to visit Rogue to have drinks with friends and socialize in a fun atmosphere.  As for the food, I’ll probably be back, but it’s not at the top of my list.  (But its neighbor, Urban Standard…that’s a different story!)

What do you look for in a good vegetarian sandwich?  Or just a good sandwich?

will the real summer please stand up?

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I hate that I missed a lot last week.  I wanted to blog, I took plenty of pictures…but I felt like such a wreck.  I was having a bad case of the blues anyway.  Nothing a trip to the state fair can’t cure, right?  I mean, crappy food, animals, monkeys riding dogs??? We had so much fun, walking around, people watching, and riding the creepy carnie rides (seriously—have you ever watched those things?  One loose screw and I’m afraid that tilt-a-whirl is coming down).  And I even treated myself:

I wonder if I can fit the whole thing in my mouth...

An elephant ear! Fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon.  No worries—I shared.

All was going well, until we were headed home and I decided to stop by the store to buy some cat food.  I reached into my purse to get my wallet, and…my hand came up empty.  I looked around the floor of the car, in the seat…nothing.  It was gone.

I have never in my life had a purse or wallet stolen.  There was only one time at the fair that my purse wasn’t right by me.  We were riding this crazy ride, and I was super hesitant to leave it.  But I did, and I kept my eye on it the whole time.  I even had the foresight to stuff my iPod in my pocket in case someone were to steal my purse.  I think someone slipped their hand in and made off with my sweet little red crocodile wallet.  I loved that thing.

It’s probably the worst thing that has happened to me.  At least in a while.  I had everything in there.  And I mean everything.  I’ve had to cancel cards, get new ones, call places, struggle without a debit card.  What really sucked was when I tried to get my license.

I called work and told them I’d be a little late and went to the courthouse.  I stood in line for about an hour to find out at the counter that I didn’t have any of the things I needed to get a license.  Granted, I really should have called to find out what I should do, but I just kept thinking, “This happens all the time!  Surely they know what to do.”

She asked did I have a social security card.  I responded that it was in my wallet (dumb, I know) and that I couldn’t get a new one without my birth certificate (which turned out to be wrong) and…my license.  She asked did I have another form of photo ID.  No, m’am, my wallet was stolen and everything was in there.  “Do you have a marriage license?” she asked.  Uh, no, and thanks for rubbing it in.

I left clutching a list bearing the things I needed to prove myself and a slightly less optimistic demeanor.  I headed home to my apartment where I had my most recent W-2s (on the list) and called work to let them know I’d be a little later than anticipated.  I arrived home only to realize that, under further review, my W-2s would not suffice since they were not the originals (my father does my taxes and he has them in his possession).

I had lunch and did the only thing left to do—I called my mother.  I decided that I would come home (an hour away), get some cash out (my mom works at my bank), and get my birth certificate (which I found out would not work).

Finally, it became clear that the only thing left on the list that would do me any good would be to get a proof of enrollment from my university—another 30-45 minutes away.

Houston Cole Library---my second home for many years

It was after three.  I hopped in my mom’s car—wait, did I mention that I have had no air conditioning this whole time?  My mom generously offered me her car, which I happily accepted.  I drove to Jacksonville and went straight to the registrar’s office.  And guess what?  YOU NEED A PHOTO ID.  Luckily, I had explained my situation and presented the only thing I managed to scrounge up—an old Xeroxed copy of my license from 2004 from my file at my mom’s bank—and she was more than happy to help.  Finally, I was getting somewhere.

thank you, for once, registrar's office

As I got ready to leave, I experienced something I hadn’t had to worry about since years ago when I graduated—school traffic.  Fortunately I still remembered some old tricks and got out onto the main stretch via a back road.  It was now 415pm.  The courthouse in Gadsden closed at five.

I hauled it to get back in time and made it with just five minutes to spare.  The women were so nice and quite sensitive to my plight.  I took my place in front of the blue screen, slightly worse for wear, and attempted to put a lovely smile on my face.  Or at least one that I can live with for the next two years when I renew my license.

meh. it'll do.

It’s ok.  I like my old picture better :(  The one before was HIDEOUS.  I was all red-faced and 50 pounds heavier.  It was…bad.

The gloom and doom wasn’t over yet.

I drove back to my mom and dad’s about 20 minutes away to have dinner and sulk at my own personal pity party and hopefully pick up my car that my dad was going to try and fix.  He came into the den to let me know he had some bad news:  my air compressor is toast and my back right tire is so worn out that the strings and wires are beginning to show.  And cherry on top:  it’s not going to be cheap.

Perfect.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with.  I’m trying to put it past me.  Some of my replacement cards came in the mail, and I doing my best to be at peace with the fact that there’s a chance that someone out there is assuming my identity and laughing at all my old college IDs and using my coupons.

Have you ever had your wallet or purse stolen?  Was your experience as awful as mine?

PS I almost forgot to mention that I did have a bright moment last week!

lara, I love you

I spotted the new Larabars at Publix!  (minus Carrot Cake)  AND they were on sale!  I’ve had Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (love) and Peanut Butter Chocolate.  I still have yet to try the Chocolate Brownie and want to find the Carrot Cake.  Do you like Larabars?  Have you had any of the new ones?

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